Hands off Medevac laws

Supporters of the Medevac legislation held an overnight vigil at Parliament House on Sunday urging Senators to reject a repeal Bill.

The Coalition is calling to overturn the Medevac legislation with the Migration Amendment (Repairing Medical Transfers) Bill 2019 [Provisions] in a Senate-only sitting this week.

The Medevac legislation passed in February 2019, allows the temporary transfer of patients in offshore detention centres for medical treatment or assessment.

The law allows asylum seekers and refugees to be airlifted to Australia for medical care, if two treating doctors determine they require transfer.

“As a civilised, decent society, we must allow asylum seekers with serious medical issues to be transferred to the Australian mainland for the temporary purpose of assessment and treatment,” ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said.

“Health professionals understand there is simply no way of them getting the level of medical treatment they need in detention centres.”

The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council CEO Toby oConnor said the Medevac laws were working as they were intended: enabling the timely transfer of patients with established clinical need and put medical treatment in the hands of doctors, not bureaucrats.

“Before the Medevac laws, 12 people died, and people waited, on average, two years before being transferred.

“The sky has not fallen in. The boats have not resumed. Hospitals are not being inundated and there has been not increase in episodes of self-harm.”

Under the current laws the Minister retains the power to refuse transfer for medical treatment on national security or character grounds. None of the 154 applications received up to July 2019 had been refused based on those grounds, Mr oConnor said.

Last month, the Australian Medical Association supported the call by the Presidents of 11 Medical Colleges to maintain the existing Medevac legislation and the Independent Health Advice Panel (IHAP) process.

“Asylum seekers and refugees in Australia or in offshore detention, in the care of the Australian government, should be treated with compassion, respect and dignity.

“IHAP is working as intended and the Parliament should continue its support and properly resource it into the future,” AMA President Dr Tony Bartone said.

The new Bill is expected to hinge on Jacqui Lambie who has the deciding vote.

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